ABC Wednesday 4: R is For...

... RHS Chelsea Flower Show

You'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit scatterbrained today, but my head's still in a whirl after yesterday's wonderful visit to Chelsea with my friend H. This post will be about random thoughts and first impressions. I've got lots of individual cameos and stories to tell you later and unlike other RHS events, there's no way Chelsea can be confined to just one post. I've decided to start with a picture of Luciano Giubbilei's gold medal winning Laurent Perrier garden, not because it's my favourite - it isn't, nor did it win best in show - but I need to look at one of my more tranquil scenes in order to start to make a sense of things.

I can't tell you whether this is a vintage Chelsea or not because this was my first visit and it wouldn't be fair to compare the real thing with my impressions gleaned from TV programmes. I expected it to be far more crowded than it was: tickets were sold out, but I believe member's days like yesterday have slightly fewer tickets allocated. It was easy to see the all the show gardens, except the Courtyard ones, but we members of the good natured crowd (about 3 deep) patiently waited until a convenient gap was found to nip in for a good look. I've been in much more crowded floral marquees too, such as Gardeners' World Live last year, though I don't know whether this was due to fewer exhibitors. We didn't get to see everything, but we did get to see all we planned to see and more, plus there was plenty of time for a chat with exhibitors, designers and some blogging buddies: unfortunately I didn't get to see all of you (especially Little Green Fingers and Constant Gardener whom I knew would be there) - I'm so sorry - next time perhaps?

Some of the gardens were much better in real life than on paper and vice versa - more on that later. There seemed to be more issues-led gardens than usual, though it could be the fewer gardens this year made them stand out a bit more. On the whole I thought a lot of the planting was quite restrained and quite blocky in nature. There wasn't a riot of colour and my overall impression was of white. The plants I noticed most were Libertia, Eremurus, Aquilegias (often in contrasting dark purple and white combinations), Angelica and white Alliums. Whilst most of the gardens were great and thought provoking, none of them made my jaw drop this time.

It was in the Great Pavilion where I was blown away. There was possibly the widest number of flowering months represented in one show for a long time, ranging from Daffodils to Dahlias. I would love to know more about how the growers perform the apparent miracle of stopping and starting growth and flowering in preparation for the show. If the outside was lacking in colour, then here it was in abundance: the exuberance of the Caribbean, the native flora of South Africa, perfect vegetables and a host of flowers of every hue. Some of the exhibits must have been larger than some of the show gardens: the Hilliers stand was absolutely huge for instance.

On my way to London on Monday I was worried I'd be disappointed with my visit. I needn't have: a chance encounter with an exhibitor on the train, plus meeting (and staying) with the lovely Victoria beforehand added to my excitement. The journey home wasn't a let down either as we took an open top bus (or broken bus as I used to call them) from the show to Victoria station. Then on the train home a rather vocal woman (probably having had a few Pimms too many) kept the whole carriage hugely entertained with her opinions of the show, needlepoint, the MP's expenses scandal and private education for her darling Hugo and Sebastian. I got home just after midnight and was so abuzz with everything I'd seen I didn't get to sleep until well after two a.m. this morning. So I'm afraid that's all I can manage for now: there's much, much more to come over the next few days :D

For more Ravishing posts on the letter R, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.


  1. I am not surprised you are tired, Chelsea is a very long day. I went once 20 plus years ago and like you I looked around the garden first but the floral marquee (as it was then) was amazing. The colour and scent, unbelievable. I am glad you had a good day and look forward to more of you impressions.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  2. HI!
    Lovely "R" post! I really like the splash of color in this garden! Beautiful! Have a great day!!


  3. Having been watching the TV coverage, its the Pavilion I am missing seeing too.

    Almost tempted to go on the off chance one evening and pay a tout!


  4. Hi VP - so sorry to have missed you. I picked up my Heucheroholics pen and saw your envelope was still there so hung around a bit but it was always a very slim chance that it would be exactly when you dropped by... Next year, let's make a plan to meet - perhaps we can also try to catch up with your delightful travelling companion at the Pimms tent!

  5. So lucky!!!! I'm jealous. I feel the need to spend some time surrounded by prefect plants and lovely designs. I don't think I'd like all the people, even if it was member's day, I'd need a super duper 'you're really special' day with even less people around and more hours in the day. Sounds fab and I can't wait to hear about it from you.

  6. What a great post and obviously you had a wonderful time. I'm so glad my favourite herb lady Jekka won another gold.

  7. Hi VP, we breathlessly await the snippets of your thoughts to come about the big event. Don't forget to tell us about Victoria's garden and anything else you might have seen. I love the story about the lady on the bus filling you in with her strong opinions! HA

  8. I really enjoyed you post today - I've always put off going to Chelsea beacause of the crowds and my lack of height! I've been following it on the TV, but it seems to have lots of 'celebs' and little real information this year and much as I love Joe Swift, I still want plant info!

    The stopping and starting growth and flowering is to do with a combination of fridges and hairdryers apparently!

    Glad you had a good day.:)

  9. Chelsea, please ma'am, we'd like some more! gail

  10. Look forward to hearing the stories firsthand tomorrow. Glad you had a great time.

  11. Thank you VP for a most entertaining post. I just love the way you write. Un fortunately I couldn't watch the videos from RHS it said something like 'not available in my area' :-(
    I'm so proud that Ulf Nordfjell took the Daily Telegraphs gold medal.
    Great R you shared with us today!


  12. Hi VP
    So glad you had such a lovely time I hear you conspired with Victoria and are planning a Garden Bloggers Garden next year !!!

    I look forward to your posts and comments and particularly the small gardens and Pavillion

  13. It's good to see that you had a enjoyable day there. xx

  14. I've never been to the Chelsea Flower Show, but maybe I should! I've often been frustrated trying to track down a particular variety, and I would imagine anything that is obtainable would be there!

  15. I'm glad you had a good time and I hope you're not too exhausted. I love your picture of the Laurent-Perrier garden.

  16. What a lovely trip it must have been - you'll have memories and photos for a long time - hope you'll post more about your trip!

  17. ooo ooo count me in on that garden bloggers' garden!!

    Am I alone in always coming away with the urge to submit a plan to do a small garden at Chelsea?

    I see sense fairly quickly as I've seen enough of what exhibitors go through to know that it's the mother of all headaches - but still... I do have a yen one day...

    perhaps if we all joined forces it would be a bit easier. Or at least a shared headache!

  18. I remember well the flower show when we were in England so long ago. I do not think we ever made the trip to visit. Thanks for sharing your exciting experience.

  19. Hi everyone - yes I'm shattered, but it's a happily excited shattered!

    Welcome Sherrie & Grace and Bradley, so glad you liked what you saw here :)

    Sylvia - both H & I wished we were 20 years younger by the end - especially when we climbed the steep steps up to the top deck of the bus afterwards!

    Zoe - I thought this might make you a bit wistful. Ticket touts were being most discrete when we were there!

    Dawn - sorry to have missed you too. Now, I'm most intrigued by your mention of an envelope - I introduced myself as Veg Plotting instead of VP, so didn't get one. I did get a pen and fridge magnet though :)

    Carrie - it was fab and just try and stop me shutting up about it. I was trying to tell NAH all about it yesterday and at one point he said 'I think you need to talk to Threadspider about this tomorrow'. Luckily we'd already arranged to meet up for coffee...

    Hermes - I had a very long chat with Jekka - she's utterly fabulous and charming. More to come later.

    Frances - lots more to come. I'm doing things the wrong way round as Chelsea's still on. But don't worry, I have a very special post to tell you all bout my fab stay with Victoria and breakfast with Emmat :D

    Nutty Gnome - yes fridges and hairdryers are key as well as light periods depending on which plants are involved. But Dahlias in May is quite a feat and I've found a fab link to use that tells you all about it later

    Gail - try shutting me up about it - you can't!

    TS - lovely to see you this morning and to hear about your hols too xx

    Tyra - I thought you'd be pleased with the result and many thanks for your kind compliments

    Joanne - a garden bloggers garden would be fab. I've been mulling it over the past few days. I'll also be saying a little bit about the lovely Mr Evison soon...

    Flighty - thanks :)

    Jay - yes, more plants than you can shake a stick at!

    Victoria - thanks. I see there's one almost exactly the same on the BBC website! And I'm exhausted but happy :)

    Tumblewords - thanks and of course there'll be more!

    CG - no you're not alone. I already have some design ideas floating around in my head. Now the question is - just how serious about this idea and if we are, how do we make it a reality?

    Grace and Bradley - you're welcome!

  20. Oooo I'd love to go to the Flower Show one year! When my brother lived in London (Walthamstow) he and his partner would go at the closing and come home on the tube with enormous plants. It must have been a sight! I wish I had lived nearer and could have joined in!

  21. It sounds as if your feet had still not touched the ground when you wrote your post - it really conveys the magic of Chelsea. That big floral marquee is really something else ! I imagine that you will have a good kip tonight.

  22. What a wonderful experience that must have been. I never made it to Chelsea, and I'm not likely to now, but you've managed to communicate the excitement. Thank you.

    Thank you also, in spite of the fact I'm so late, on behalf of the Team!

  23. Helena - it was wonderful! And I saw some discrete little signs saying you could reserve your selloff plants even on the Tuesday ready for Saturday!

    Anna - the kip didn't quite happen on Wednesday either as we went to see Al Stewart in Devizes (of all places!) on Wednesday. My head's still in a whirl even now!

    Dragonstar - you're welcome!


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